Jenni Häyrinen is the Finnish food artist behind the mouthwatering baked feta pasta recipe that has gone viral on social media worldwide, boosting feta cheese sales to an unprecedented peak and even causing shortages in markets across the globe.
International media documented the massive impact of Jenni’s dish on feta supply and demand across the USA last month, as the wildly popular recipe, which debuted online in 2018 under its Finnish name “uunifetapasta”, went trending once again thanks to a TikTok video.
The ingenious food blogger from Helsinki tells Greek Reporter where the inspiration came from for this much loved dish, what makes feta so popular with people from different culinary backgrounds, and what her personal impression of original Greek cuisine during a brief stay in the country was.
Phenomenal impact of oven-baked feta
A few months after the online publication of Jenni’s feta pasta recipe, “oven feta” ranked as the most searched keyword in the food category on Google Finland for 2019, and “uunifetapasta” was justifiably awarded Phenomenon of the Year.
But that was just the beginning of a truly phenomenal impact.
A year later, in September 2020, Jenni was to find out that, the immense popularity of her recipe caused feta cheese sales to go up by 300% cent in Finland alone, and that shops were running out of basic ingredients for the dish.
By that time, the original “uunifetapasta” post had exceeded 2.7 million views, while Finland itself has only 5.5 million inhabitants.
“Some stores ran out of feta cheese. One big chain store reported that their feta sales went up 300%, while I started getting messages from my followers telling me that they could no longer find feta in their local store.
“It was the same story with basil, which you also need for the recipe. Once I went to my local store to get feta cheese for my uunifetapasta and they were out of feta too! That was funny, but I could only blame myself”, she laughs.
The fascination with the dish has since continued to take the world by storm, most recently winning over US foodies, as the latest sales data -let alone social media stats- confirm.
The widely influential food blogger admits that the inspiration for using feta cheese when creating this particular recipe stemmed from her personal adoration of feta and her cravings for it.
“I love feta cheese. It’s rich in flavor, salty, and melts just perfect. I love it baked, and craved for it as whenever I was feeling peckish. I needed to fix myself a quick lunch, so I thought why not bake it with lots of tomatoes to create a sauce and add pasta to it!”, Jenni recounts.
Despite her confidence in her recipe, the eventual enthusiastic reaction that it received -and is still receiving today, over two years from its emergence- was simply beyond imagination.
“I knew it was a great recipe when I posted it, so I asked my followers if they have tried the new viral pasta yet and used hashtag #uunifetapasta. It was more of a joke at first, but right away it started going really viral -first on Instagram stories.
“The following weekend I ran a 3-day #uunifetapasta live, again on my Instagram stories, as I reposted my followers’ creations. Newspapers picked on it and within a couple of weeks everybody in Finland was cooking it”, she recalls.
Jenni declares being a huge consumer of olive oil, olives and feta, which she often uses for her recipes.
“Mediterranean food and Greek cuisine are popular and well-known all over the world. We don’t have a similar local cheese here, so imported, authentic Greek feta is a natural choice for several dishes that go well with feta cheese”, she explains.
During a short stay in Greece in 2018, Jenni had the opportunity to experience traditional Greek cuisine whilst attending a food photography workshop in Milia.
Although she ate mostly local food at the place where she stayed, she got to visit restaurants too, a number of times.
“My favourite dishes that I got to taste were the spanakopita spinach pie and octopus salad. I love to cook moussaka at home too -it must be my husband’s favourite food!”, she reveals.